If you want the instant remedy, scroll down until you see bullet point 1. Otherwise I am going to ramble a bit first.
So I am writing self-help articles. Never thought that would happen. When we feel we are held back by bad habits or problems, in this era of instant everything, we want an instant cure. We ask Google “how to do x”, e.g. “how to be more confident”, “how to stop procrastination”, “how to eat a cookie” or “how to be more efficient”, and Google hands us lists of “tips”, “tricks” and “ways”. It’s like walking into the Pharmacy for Life, where there are shelves of pills for each life disease. Usually the packets of pills come in numbers of 7, 8, 10, 15, or even 25: “7 ways to be more productive”, “25 tricks you didn’t know that boost confidence”. Some claim to be “scientifically proven” (so the rest are just homeopathy and Chinese herbs?). The smallest packet I saw contains 3 pills, like the following ones on productivity. The first self-help alchemist says there are ONLY 4 ways to be more productive, while the other tells you their 4 ways are the ones that REALLY work. Hmmm who should I believe?
I never thought I’d make pills for life diseases. However, recently, I have caught the Cold of Worrying, and stumbled upon two remedies that helped clear it. I know that two ways are too few, but I still want to share them in case you find them useful too.
My Cold of Worrying was to do with trying to decide what career path to take and where physically to locate. I imagined dozens of scenarios and came to a conclusion: a different one each day. The overthinking quickly became consuming and annoying, so I needed some “self-help”. Btw, going off-track once again, the term “self-help” is funny. Normally it doesn’t mean we find ways to help ourselves; it means we secretly seek others’ help without them knowing. We engage in a non-contact interaction with gurus who have figured life out and have poured their wisdom into pills of words. If the pills work, hooray. If they don’t, we tell no one and try another packet of pills.
So, suffering from the Cold of Worrying, I stumbled upon two remedies in the wild rather than bought them off the shelf from the Pharmacy for Life. And as with any remedy, I must add a “warning” clause. The following suggestions probably won’t help if what you are worried about is fundamental to your existence, such as safety, food, shelter, your own health or the health of your loved ones. What I have in mind are things slightly higher up Maslow’s needs hierarchy, such as personal issues in career choices, relationships and finance, general worries such as the unemployment rate, social inequality and the political situation, or even acute events like “do I look fat today”, “how am I going to meet the deadline next Friday”, or “am I going to fxxk up the interview”.
Here are my remedies for combating worrying. Like any self-respecting self-help remedy, they deserve a clickbait title:
The only 2 scientific-sounding, surprising and easy ways to stop worrying FAST, that you didn’t know, and actually work, and that your auntie’s cats and other pets don’t want you to know
Laugh at Sisyphus.
And realize we are all Sisyphuses.
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus spends his eternal life rolling a rock up a hill, only to watch it roll back, repeating the same actions and knowing that the repetition is all there is to his life.
In a way, we are all Sisyphuses, says Albert Camus. What we engage in, be it our jobs, caring for our family, or running businesses, they may give an illusion of meaning, but fundamentally life has no meaning – it is absurd. Perhaps you think I am painting a rather dark picture of life. If life has no meaning, shall we stop everything we do and be depressed? No no no. Don’t go so far. Just take a step back, realise that we can laugh about life, and about ourselves. We can laugh away our worries. A good friend Chiara Mazzocconi told me that laughing at ourselves, and at the system we are in, frees us. Another good friend Friedrich Nietzsche told me (OK I lied, Nietzsche is not a close friend of mine), we can accept that there is no fundamental meaning to life, take a distance and find beauty; we can try to be “poets of our lives”. Like Peggy Lee’s song goes, “if that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing”.
2. Take a space trip.
With your mind.
It will give you a higher perspective.
Apollo Astronaut Edgar Mitchell said that seeing the earth from the moon makes “international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”
Taking a higher perspective will pettify most of our worries. Imagine getting as high as that piece of twitter paper, and quietly admiring the earth’s blue horizon in awe, would you still worry about your project deadline, your boss’s comments or what to wear to a party?
If you are afraid of heights and spacetrip isn’t your thing, you can get a similar perspective by taking a mind trip to the oceans and the rocks. In the poem “Carmel Point”, Robinson Jeffers (1887 – 1962) said that
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanise our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.
I came across this perspective effect when I was listening to podcasts on the way to work. I found that topics about science, in particular physics, are very calming and take me out of my stupid self-worry-bubble. In a Guardian interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist said:
“…The very atoms of our bodies, the molecules, which contain carbon and nitrogen and oxygen. You can ask, where do these come from? … They were forged in the cores of high-mass stars, that manufactured the heavy elements from lighter ones from which they were born, and then they explode! -as what we call supernova-, scatter their enriched guts across the galaxy. It comes to gas clouds that then collapse and form star systems with these extra ingredients that can now carve out planets,
So it is not a figurative truth, but a literal truth, that we are stardust.
And not only do we exist in this universe,
you can justifiably argue,
that the universe exists
When you hear something like this, how can you not forget about yourself and smile to the happiness of the wonders of the universe? So take a space trip, with your mind. Listen to discussions about the universe, about nature. Wonder about what’s out there, far far away, in your day dreams, and gaze at the stars at night. Your worries will fade, evaporate, disappear like shooting stars.
So those were my two remedies. They are not scientifically proven, but I hope they help you, or at least make you smile. 😉